Health and sustainable development

Urban green spaces

Dense housing settlements due to urbanization in Nepal
Dense housing settlements due to urbanization in Nepal
WHO/Christopher Black

Green spaces such as parks and sports fields as well as woods and natural meadows, wetlands or other ecosystems, represent a fundamental component of any urban ecosystem. Green urban areas facilitate physical activity and relaxation, and form a refuge from noise. Trees produce oxygen, and help filter out harmful air pollution, including airborne particulate matter. Water spots, from lakes to rivers and fountains, moderate temperatures.

Urban parks and gardens play a critical role in cooling cities, and also provide safe routes for walking and cycling for transport purposes as well as sites for physical activity, social interaction and for recreation. Recent estimates show that physical inactivity, linked to poor walkability and lack of access to recreational areas, accounts for 3.3% of global deaths.

Green spaces also are important to mental health. Having access to green spaces can reduce health inequalities, improve well-being, and aid in treatment of mental illness. Some analysis suggests that physical activity in a natural environment can help remedy mild depression and reduce physiological stress indicators.